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Living the Simple Life in Costa Rica by Francesca Ramacciotti, Environmental Resource Management Major

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Posted: June 6, 2016

After traveling to Costa Rica and seeing how others live, I realized changes I can make in my own life to have a better impact in this world.
The crater of the Poás Volcano in central Costa Rica, approximately 9,000 feet above sea level.

The crater of the Poás Volcano in central Costa Rica, approximately 9,000 feet above sea level.

Traveling to Costa Rica over spring break was truly an eye opening experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to experience the diverse ecosystem of the tropical rainforest and learn about sustainable agriculture practices, but I was able to live a different way of life for an entire week. The extensive hospitality of the people of Costa Rica allowed us to learn about and experience a culture vastly different from our own.

Most of our time in Costa Rica was focused at EARTH University, a small, specialized college in sustainable agriculture, natural resource preservation, and conservation. Here, we talked with individuals from Costa Rica as well as students from other countries in South America, Africa, and Europe about their education and how they are using it to better impact their home communities. Our group learned about different agricultural practices, renewable energy, waste disposal, and biodiversity through visits to a banana plantation, an integrated dairy farm, and a butterfly sanctuary. In the later part of our trip, we visited Santa Rosa National Park, the Poás Volcano, and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. These experiences allowed us to understand the vast diversity of the tropical rainforest while learning about ways to protect it as well.

While in Costa Rica, our group also had the opportunity to visit multiple farms that were members of the ecotourism Association of Argentina. Visiting these farms allowed us to see a part of Costa Rica that many tourists do not ever experience. These happened to be my favorite days as well. At one of the farms, owner Don Eladio guided us on a hike throughout his property and down to the river in the back of his land. We had a traditional Costa Rican lunch and were even able to help him clear up the area around his coffee plants to make room for his homemade compost. At another farm we visited, we learned how to make soap as well as toured her extensive property. In addition to having countless vegetables and flowers on her land, the farm owner had pigs, chickens, and parrots.

Hearing from these individuals about what they do every day and how they live was intriguing. Their homes may be small in comparison to what we are used to in the United States but they never once said they were unhappy with their lives. They have what they need not only to survive but to be happy as well. Being in Costa Rica allowed me to experience living this much simpler lifestyle-even if it was only for a week. Seeing how people around the world live so differently than we do in the United States really opened my eyes to so many new things. Incorporating sustainability into our daily lives is imperative not only to help our own country but to help others as well. Individuals around the world are starting to do their part with increasing sustainability in their lives; it is time we do the same in the U.S. and take action to reduce our own impact on the environment.

Overall, my travel experience to Costa Rica was extremely valuable to me and I know it will continue to be in the future. From this opportunity, I gained communication skills as I do not fluently speak Spanish but was frequently with individuals who did not speak English. Still, we were able to communicate and understand what message each of us was trying to convey. Furthermore, I grew to better understand my own responsibility with respect to incorporating sustainability into our lives. After traveling to Costa Rica and seeing how the locals live, I realized changes I can make in my own life to have a better impact in this world. I know a future employer will also see the extreme value this trip has added to my education. Not only did it change my outlook on my daily actions, but I learned so much about a new culture and a new ecosystem. Visiting Costa Rica was a life changing opportunity and I am so grateful to have had this amazing experience. I know I will continue to incorporate values and practices I have witnessed in Costa Rica into my daily life, here in the United States.